Elia Kazan

(1909—2003) Turkish-born American film and theatre director

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Turkish-born US film and stage director, who was a co-founder of the Actors' Studio and whose 1950s ‘method’ films were highly acclaimed.

Born in Istanbul, Kazan emigrated with his family to the USA in 1913 and began his career with Lee Strasberg at the Group Theater in 1932. Most of his early career was spent in the radical theatre and for a time he was a member of the Communist Party. His first wife was playwright Molly Kazan and his second, the actress-director Barbara Loden.

Kazan first made a name for himself on Broadway. Successful stage productions included All My Sons and A Streetcar Named Desire (both 1947). As well as directing, he also acted in several plays and films and worked on a few documentaries before directing his first feature film, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945). His first Oscar as director came with Gentleman's Agreement (1947), an indictment of antisemitism. Socially relevant, too, was Boomerang (1947), dealing with judicial corruption. In the same year Kazan became a co-founder of the Actors' Studio, the home of ‘method’ acting, and there followed a series of films featuring Marlon Brando, the chief exponent of the ‘method’. These included A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Viva Zapata! (1952), and the Oscar-winning On the Waterfront (1954). After the Brando films Kazan made East of Eden (1955), starring James Dean. Subsequent films included Baby Doll (1956), A Face in the Crowd (1957), film versions of two of his novels, America America (1963) and The Arrangement (1969), and The Last Tycoon (1977). He published his autobiography Elia Kazan, A Life, in 1988.

Subjects: Theatre.

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